By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Sep 01, 2005 at 5:34 AM

{image1} Seven years ago today, we "flipped the switch" on, launching six months of prep work (and 20-something years of life work) into cyberspace and into the public eye. At the time, it seemed like a pretty good idea. I thought -- I hoped -- we'd make it seven years and beyond. And here we are now, 13 people strong, passionate about our jobs, our company, our industry and our city. As we look ahead to another exciting year at OMC, we can also look back and see how the city and its media landscape has changed since Sept. 1, 1998.

A colleague recently asked me what I'd do if I didn't own I paused, then answered, "I just don't know." Here I am, surrounded by my co-workers who have become my friends, and each day, we publish Milwaukee's only daily magazine. Some 750,000 Milwaukeeans visit OMC each month, and the numbers continue to grow by up to 10 percent per month. My business partner, Jeff Sherman, joined this venture for exactly the same reason I did: Milwaukee needed a publication that celebrates this great city, isn't afraid to laugh at it and ourselves, and tells the stories that aren't being told. I know, in many ways, we're still making that happen every day.

This past year has been exciting, tumultuous and memorable. Of course, the most public aspect was our visit from President Bush in May. It would have been far too self-serving to write about it then, but now I can tell the story: the President, while visiting Milwaukee, was looking to meet with a high-tech group of young entrepreneurs. He chose Regardless of political affiliation, and believe me, it's all over the map here at OMC (feel free to ask me in person who I voted for), our team had the opportunity of a lifetime to meet and chat with President Bush, who, when talking about the Brewers and the state of online media, was surprisingly eloquent and engaging. We also became the first online magazine to travel in the presidential motorcade and report a story, live.

Jeff and I had the honor of riding with President Bush to his next stop at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Again, politics aside, it was awesome. Despite a mere two small paragraphs at the end of the story in the daily Milwaukee paper, OMC received international media coverage, with photos in the Washington Post, the Manchester (U.K.) Guardian, Fox News Network, and all over CNN, just to name a few. It was a remarkable opportunity to showcase our growing, innovative company, and I still haven't grown tired of talking about it.

Another highlight centered around our annual April Fool's Day edition. For those Milwaukeeans who are just learning how to turn on a computer, it's a tradition we started several years ago. Every story on the front page of is totally fake, pure satire. Every photo is Photoshopped up a storm. This year, we took a jab at politics, egos and bigotry in city government with a not-so-far-fetched headline about an alderman calling the mayor a name (we wouldn't dare reprint it now, since April 1 has come and gone). Mind you, this ran alongside such believable headlines as "Attanasio orders Guard to tear down Selig statue at Miller Park" and "City spends $685,000 to build anti-jaywalking Web site." Well, most people found it funny, but apparently the City Attorney didn't. He called me to inform me that I was a "lowlife." The president of the Common Council didn't like it, either -- he demanded an official apology (which he didn't get). Point is, we think Milwaukee needs to be able to laugh at itself. Sorry we hurt some feelings, but as a wise person once told me, "Funny trumps inappropriate."

The last 12 months also brought about some reorganization here at as we further streamlined our vision. One of my original business partners, Jon Krouse, left his day-to-day duties to pursue other opportunities. We added two new sales people and a writer, and made a promotions manager full-time. We also finished the acquisition of RummageWorks, LLC, the classified ads division of our company. I am so proud to say that, financially speaking, this past year has been the best ever for OMC.

As we've grown, we've also become an increasing target for competition, and that's just great. As the daily newspaper slowly dissolves (a site lauched a year after OMC), it has introduced a print publication that attempts to target a similar readership. We're happy to say that our readership and revenue has grown since it came on the scene; further proof that, as Jeff is fond of saying, "a rising tide lifts all boats." Also, we've seen some reports that we are for sale, which is usually an indication that a company has truly arrived and found its niche in the marketplace. (For the record, OMC is for sale as much as any company is for sale for the right price. Don't count on us going anywhere soon, Milwaukee. Do count on us to continue to grow and expand.)

And in this next year, life at OMC will get even more exciting. First, we are getting close to launching the next version of the magazine, an overhaul like one you haven't seen since July, 2003. We know you'll love the new customization tools, as well as bigger photos and a sleeker, easier-to-read look and feel. We promise it will be more interactive, taking advantage of some cutting-edge Web technologies (hint: audio, video and more interaction). We're working as hard as we can to launch it soon.

Also, we're moving to bigger offices this fall, most likely just down the street on North Avenue, still in the East Side neighborhood, just minutes from the heart of downtown. Stay tuned for more information, as well as some possible exciting additions to the outside of our new building (that's all we can say now).

Finally, we're exploring new partnerships, investment and business development opportunities to enhance both OMC and other Milwaukee-area Web sites and media companies. We guarantee you'll be seeing a lot more from us in the year to come.

To celebrate all this, we're throwing a seven-year anniversary party for readers, friends, partners and advertisers of OMC. Details to follow, but mark your calendars: Thursday, Oct. 6 at Barossa. A good time will be had by all.

Of course, we couldn't make any of this happen without the tireless devotion from our employees, as well as our friends and families. I wish you could see this place on a daily basis -- we work hard and we play hard, but we all trust and respect each other. It's the work environment Jeff and I dreamed of as we ached to escape the cubicles that we were confined to in the late '90s. And we wouldn't be here without the support of our readers and our advertisers. Thank you, Milwaukee, for stepping up to support us.

Speaking of which, way back in 1998, a lot of people said Milwaukee couldn't support a company like, that this town was too conservative for a dot com media company. Thank you, too, to all the naysayers, for that great motivation. We certainly don't hear much of that anymore.

On behalf of Jeff, our investors and all of our amazing team, it's an honor to publish OMC every day. We look forward to many more great years together. On Milwaukee!

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.